The Oregon Ducks have been high flying all season long and looked to be in fabulous position to stake their claim for the national championship. That is, until the Stanford Cardinal came along and once again swept the carpet from under the Ducks’ feet, as they overpowered the Ducks physically and staved off a late comeback to emerge victorious 26-21.
Heisman trophy front-runner Marcus Mariota also slipped with his performance against the Cardinal. While he threw for for 250 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions, the Ducks’ offense committed two costly turnovers, both of which ended drives that saw the team in the red zone and threatening to get back in the game early. Boasting the nation’s second-best rushing attack, the Ducks finished with only 61 rushing yards on the ground.
On the opposite end, Oregon’s eighth-ranked scoring defense, while holding Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan to only 103 passing yards and allowing him to only complete seven of his 13 passes, allowed the Cardinal to rack up 274 yards on the ground. Tyler Gaffney paved the way as the Cardinal’s workhorse back with 157 yards on 45 carries and a touchdown.
While he averaged 3.5 yards per carry, those 45 carries were essential to the Cardinal’s overall game plan: to keep Oregon’s offense off the field and give them as few scoring opportunities as possible.
It was apparent all game long that Oregon’s offensive line was dominated at the line of scrimmage as the Cardinal kept Mariota contained in the pocket and took away the Ducks’ array of jet sweeps and zone-read options, which severely limited the Ducks’ offense to make them very one-dimensional. While The Ducks’ defense only gave up two touchdowns, the miscues on offense prevented Oregon from getting back into the game in a timely fashion.
The Ducks’ loss now all but puts them out of the reach of the National Championship, especially if Alabama or Florida State win out the remainder of their games. This is especially the case since the Crimson Tide must face both LSU and Auburn in the coming weeks. The Ducks can win out as well, but unless the Crimson Tide or the Seminoles falter, the Ducks look set for another high-profile BCS bowl, but not the national championship.